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North Crawford School Board elects new member
North Crawford

NORTH CRAWFORD - The biggest item on the agenda for the North Crawford School Board at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 14 was making changes in school board members and electing their new officers.

Jesse Swenson announced her resignation from the board to better focus on her coaching responsibilities with the girl’s track team. The board voted to accept her resignation, and to vote in one of the four nominees that put their hat in the ring to serve the rest of the term to which Swenson had just been re-elected in April.

President Mary Kuhn explained the process whereby Swenson’s replacement would be elected by the board. Board members would nominate candidates, and then by paper ballot votes, board members would vote for the candidate of their choice. There would be no eliminations, and no candidate could be seated who had received less than four votes.

“We’ll vote for a few rounds,” Kuhn said, “and if we can’t reach consensus, then I’ll table it to our June meeting because I don’t want us to sit here and vote all night.”

Kuhn called for nominations, and Wade Dull nominated Jill Stefonek; Jim Dworschack nominated Bjorn Bansberg; Mary Kuhn nominated Tanya Forkash; and Aaron Fortney nominated Ed Heisz.

Once nominations were closed, three rounds of paper ballot voting were conducted. In the first two rounds, no candidate received the required four votes. In the third and final round of voting, Tanya Forkash received the required minimum of four votes and was elected by unanimous acclamation to fill Swenson’s vacated seat.

Then another round of voting was conducted, with the same process, to select board officers. Mary Kuhn was unopposed for the position of board president, and was elected by unanimous acclamation. The same was true for Jim Dworschack, elected treasurer, and Judy Powell, elected as clerk.

There were two nominations for the vice president position. Jim Dworschack nominated incumbent Wade Dull, and Aaron Fortney nominated Terry O’Donnell.

After three rounds of voting by paper ballot, Terry O’Donnell was elected vice president of the board.

Mary Kuhn announced committee assignments, and explained that Tanya Forkash would take on Jesse Swenson’s committee assignments. Tanya Forkash was also selected to fill the position of board correspondent.

Staff changes

Superintendent Brandon Munson announced that he had received resignations from three staff members, and asked for board approval. Those three staff are Kyle Oldenburg, who is relocating; Holly Jones from her position as band director; and Kris Marquez, special education. In addition, high school math teacher Martha Buening had announced her retirement.

Munson also announced and received board approval for new staff recommendations. Jeff Isensee will replace Martha Buening as a high school math teacher. Because Isensee is not dual certified to teach FACE as Buening had been, Munson recommended hiring Candace Peterson for a half time teaching position in FACE curriculum areas. Munson also recommended hiring Amy Anderson again to coordinate the summer school program, and upgrading Jesse Swenson’s track coach position to a paid job.

The board also voted to renew the contracts for the superintendent, business manager, MS/HS principal, elementary principal, and special education director positions. They renewed one-year contracts for the administrative assistant, IT coordinator, director of maintenance, director of transportation, school nurse, and speech and language clinician.

PBIS program

Elementary Principal Julie Kruizenga was quick to praise the work of Elementary Guidance Counselor Zoe Ellerbusch, and Grade One teacher Rebecca Molledahl, for their work in rolling out an innovative, intermediate level behavior intervention program intended for students with elevated levels of behavior infractions just below the threshold for full-scale school intervention.

“The leadership and skill Zoe and Becky had displayed in piloting this new PBIS program has been stellar,” Kruizenga said. “We’ve already seen good results with the pilot group, and the groundwork has been laid this year to fully roll the program out next school year.”

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is an evidence-based, data-driven framework proven to reduce disciplinary incidents, increase a school’s sense of safety and support improved academic outcomes.

Molledahl explained to the board that she and Ellerbusch had undergone the first two tiers of the four-tier PBIS training this year, and had collaborated in a pilot rollout with a group of one student from each elementary grade level this year.

“This program is for kids that are just below the threshold for a full intervention on the part of the school,” Ellerbusch explained. “Becky’s approach with the pilot of starting small, getting the teacher’s trained, and working out the kinks was a great approach with positive and inspiring results.”

Ellerbusch estimated that for next school year, they would have a full rollout working with an estimated 20 students.

“This involved a lot of work, so Becky won’t be able to continue in the same capacity next year as she did this year,” Ellerbusch explained. “I’ll have to take more of this on, but at least the teachers are already trained, and the students won’t necessarily have to be in the program all year if they show significant and consistent improvement.”

Track and concessions

Munson took up the issues of needed repairs to the track, additional problems with water in the track field, and the need to remove the old, decrepit, concessions stand.

Track coaches Mike Allbaugh and Jesse Swenson had brought up concerns with the existing track in the public input portion of the agenda.

“We can’t see any of the markings on the track anymore to know where to place hurdles or where the relay race handoff zones are,” Allbaugh said. “That combined with lack of an upgraded, rubberized track prevent us from holding a regional or sectional meet here at North Crawford.”

Girls track coach Jesse Swenson was quick to agree with Allbaugh. “Of course, we all ran on that asphalt track and survived,” Swenson said. “But the truth is that the asphalt surface is really hard on our young athletes, and currently also has large cracks in it. If we had spent the same money we’ve spent over the years on resurfacing the asphalt on installing a rubberized surface, we’d have it paid for and have a better track program.”

Swenson and Allbaugh both emphasized that the current asphalt base is considered optimal for installation of a rubberized track surface.

“I am recommending the board approve a resurfacing and painting of both the track and the student parking lot this year,” Munson said. “I am in support of putting together a longer-term partnership between the district, the track team, the booster club and the community to perhaps position us to put in place a rubberized track, perhaps in a three-year time frame.”

Ed Heisz, who coached the girls track team before Swenson, and who was present at the meeting told the board that Richland Center had found a cheaper option to install a rubberized track. He recommended that the district reach out to them as part of an exploration of costs and options.

Munson also told the board about plans to hire Showen Excavating to complete the project of preventing water from pooling in the track field area begun last year.

“The work that Showen did last year was well done, and is working perfectly,” Munson said. “ But there is also another area that needs to be addressed, and since the source of the problem is located underneath the old concessions stand, the project of tearing down the old stand, relocated the electrical connections that currently run through the building, and re-sloping the parking lot area will all be done at the same time. The money for all of this is already available within the current budget.”

Munson told the board that “there is a lot of electricity currently running through the old concession stand that powers the ball field lights and score boards.” Based on Harry Heisz’s recommendation, the first step in the project will be to move all of that to the shed where the track team stores their equipment. McCormick Electric will do that work, and then either Jim Showen or the North Crawford Grounds Crew will tear down the old building and remove the concrete pad.

Board member Jim Dworschack questioned if the electrics should be moved to the track shed, or just be relocated in place with a small, dedicated building to hold it.

“The problem with the water originates under the cement pad,” Harry Heisz explained. “There is a spring located under the cement pad, and to get at the source of the problem, we’re going to have to dig down fairly deep, so the electric will need to be relocated.”

Other business

In other business the board:

Recognized the foreign exchange students and their families;

Heard that Munson, along with Ed Heisz, will go to the site of Amy Heisz driveway to see for themselves what problems exist with using her driveway to turn the school bus around;

Heard that elementary students are undergoing PAL testing;

Learned that Mary Kuhn would be recognized for 20 years of service at the State Teacher’s Convention, and that Demetri Andrews would be recognized as “New Business Manager of the Year;”

Approved the purchase of new 6-12 science text books;

Learned that of the students open enrolling out of the district, only three were current North Crawford students;

Approved a new “M3 Co-op” health insurance plan for district staff which would lower premiums and deductibles;

Heard a letter read from the Gays Mills Village Board thanking the district for their donation to the Gays Mills swimming pool.